Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 7/5/13
Jeremy Roenick fans may disagree, but you can make the argument that the Coyotes have lacked an elite, play-making center ever since they arrived in the Valley in 1996. That changed on Friday. Less than an hour after the free agency period opened, the Coyotes agreed to terms with free-agent center Mike Ribeiro on a four-year deal worth 22 million (average of 5.5 million). Ribeiro was one of the top players on the market this season. Ribeiro, 33, had 13 goals and 49 points in 48 games for the Washington Capitals last season. He played for Coyotes coach Dave Tippett for three seasons in Dallas (2006-09). The best of those seasons was 2007-08 when he had 27 goals and 83 points, but he has posted at least 34 assists in his last nine NHL seasons and has topped 40 six times in that span. With Matthew Lombardi injured much of the lockout shortened 2013 season, the Coyotes top four centers combined for 39 assists last season. You look at our roster, hes the kind of player were missing: A top centerman who is a great playmaker, Tippett said of Ribeiro. He has a creativity that is ahead of a lot of players. He can be a quirky guy, but he just has a unique ability to hold the puck, make great plays and find players in spaces. He makes plays other players cant make. The Coyotes could play Ribeiro on their top line with Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker, assuming the Coyotes can re-sign Boedker, a restricted free agent who is arbitration eligible. Ribeiros play-making ability could really help Boedker, who didnt meet offensive expectations with seven goals and 26 points in 48 games last season. You could definitely talk about a line of Ribeiro, Shane Doan and (Mikkel) Boedker, but I think we have some options with our top two groups now, Tippett said. With (Martin) Hanzal and (Radim) Vrbata, youve got some pieces to work with. The Coyotes may still be in the market for a left wing on their second line, but the prices were awfully steep on Friday, so they might take some time to assess where they are before diving into those waters. It is also possible that top pick Max Domi could get a shot on the left side. In any case, if anybody was wondering what new owners George Gosbee, Anthony LeBanc and Co. might do to prove they are committed to winning right now, the group left little doubt with this move. The Ribeiro move was easily the biggest for the Coyotes, but it wasnt the only move they made on an active day. Phoenix re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Kyle Chipchura (one year, 675,000), restricted free agent forward Lauri Korpikoski (four years, 10 million) and defenseman Michael Stone (three years) The team also signed goalie Thomas Greiss (San Jose) to a one-year, 750,000 deal to be Mike Smiths backup. The Coyotes werent happy with Jason LaBarberas play last season and elected to go in another direction after some preliminary talks with LaBarbera. LaBarbera ended up signing a one-year deal with Edmonton on Friday, but the Oilers took away a more significant piece when they signed free-agent center Boyd Gordon to a three-year deal worth a whopping 9 million, robbing Phoenix of a faceoff and shot-blocking specialist who fit extremely well in Tippetts defense-first system. It was very disappointing to lose Gordo, Tippett said. With Gordon gone, the top four Coyotes centers are Ribeiro, Hanzal, Antoine Vermette and Chipchura, who will have a chance to fill Gordons role. The Coyotes think he can, based on how effective he was when Phoenix eliminated Chicago in the first round of the playoffs in 2012. Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter
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